Manure Suspected in E-Coli-Tainted Produce Affecting 110,000 Yearly

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Dennis G. Maki, titled Don’t Eat the Spinach — Controlling Foodborne Infectious Disease is an important read for any of you using manure on your gardens.  It is in the Files section of the for your consideration.

The article identifies manure as the prime suspect in the big heavily publicized outbreak from tainted spinach in 2006, and implicates it in a great many other situations as well.

E-Coli, Mad Cow Disease, Salmonella, and other diseases that are introduced to our food supply by animal manures are one of several reasons we don’t get excited about using manure and compost in our gardens.

In addition, unless the materials have been thoroughly sterilized, they often introduce plant diseases, weed seeds, and bugs into the garden.

And probably the most important reasons for not relying on manure and compost are that you don’t know what nutrients they have, and application is usually done only once, rather than throughout the growth cycle of the plants.

The Mittleider Method is considered by many to be “The Best of Organic” because we use natural mineral nutrients that are all approved by the USDA for use in organic gardening, but they haven’t been corrupted nor had much of the nutrients taken out by going through the cow.

We feed our plants small amounts of a balanced mix of all 13 nutrients plants need, and do so several times, so plants always have what they need for optimum fast healthy growth.

We encourage everyone to grow and eat disease-free spinach and other produce by using the Mittleider Method, and encourage you to tell those you know to grow their gardens this way as well.  You may even save someone’s life!

How to Properly Grow a Healthy Garden Using Compost and Manure

Q.  Even if it’s a poorer source of nitrogen than oil-based products (urea, ammonium nitrate, and ammonium sulfate), won’t compost (particularly composted manure) get the job done?  That’s a completely free and renewable resource.  My garden beds this year are heavily composted with manure and the plants are all absolutely gorgeous.
Next year I want to use the Mittleider Method, as it looks very  efficient.  Will I be shooting myself in the foot if I use “farm-raised nitrogen”?

A.  If you believe the day is coming when we won’t be able to get mineral nutrients, you should definitely learn how to prepare and use the organic materials that you WILL have available to you.  You may not want to count on manure though, because if everyone relies on cows and horses to provide their fertilizer, 90% will be disappointed.  There just isn’t enough to go around.

For those of you who feel strongly about continuing to use manure and compost, make certain that you learn how to compost properly, by maintaining temperatures of at least 140 degrees fahrenheit throughout the process, and always do it that way.  This provides sufficient heat to kill all pathogens.

I recommend you read my article on The Zoo-Doo Man in these FAQs.  That will help you understand what’s required, as well as my perspective on the issues involved.

Once you solve the issue of proper composting you will want to understand, and know how to deal with, the issues of deficiencies and salinity.

Because there is no practical way of knowing how much of the 13 nutrients your compost has in it, you will very likely be faced with deficiencies of some of them.  These will show up in your plants, and if you recognize and treat them quickly you can save the crop.  Sometimes a garden crop is lost when an ounce or two of zinc, iron, boron, or manganese, etc. would completely solve the problem.

I highly recommend you get the Mittleider Garden Doctor books, available at, and begin to use them.  They will save their cost many times over! 

Another issue that needs to be addressed when using manure and compost is that of too much at the beginning and not enough later on.  Most people apply 2″-4″ of compost and work it into their garden before planting.  Doing that to the entire garden is wasteful of compost, and most of the nutrients go to feed the weeds in the aisles.  So to start with, apply compost and manure only to your bed area.

And how much should you apply?  Three inches of manure applied to the 45 square feet of a 30′-long soil-bed would weigh 200-300#, and would contain 2-3# of each of the major nutrients, plus lesser amounts of the secondary and micro-nutrients.  We only apply about 2 OUNCES of each of the major elements to a soil-bed before planting, so the 3″ application of compost puts 15 to 20 times more mineral salts into the soil than is needed right then.

This much salt in your soil may stop or even reverse the process of osmosis that takes moisture and nutrients into your plants, which will harm or kill your small seedlings.  Inexperienced and careless organic gardeners are frequently discouraged, and sometimes give up, when they experience the immutable effects of this often-misunderstood natural law.

Therefore, apply only about 1/2″ of compost to your planting area before planting, and after your plants are up add another 1/2″ to the surface of the planting area and work it into the soil.  Continue this process every two weeks – until 3 weeks before harvesting for single crop varieties, and until 6-8 weeks before the first frost for everbearing crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and squash.

I know how to prepare and use manure and compost, and have done it very successfully.  I choose to use natural mineral nutrients because 1) it is so much easier and cost effective, 2) we eliminate problems such as pests, weed seeds, and diseases, and 3) we eliminate 13 unknowns by accurately providing our plants with everything that they need.

Proper Use of and Timing for Applying Compost and Manure to the Garden

Fall is the best time to put materials into your garden, because they have 4-6 months to compost before you plant again.  However, you can do it in February-March also, but be sure it is clean and free of bugs, weed seeds, and disease!
If you can find clean, finely ground-up leaves to use, they will improve your soil tilth.  Dry leaves provide very little nutrition, but they also do not introduce disease, bugs, or weed seeds into the garden, so they are good to use.
Other compost and manure may have somewhat more nutritional value, but the risk is much higher that you will introduce one or more of the negative elements into your garden.  Therefore, use extreme caution when putting these materials into the garden.
Please understand that we are not opposed to the use of organic materials – on the contrary we use them ourselves.  We are, however, very careful about what we use, and where it comes from.
We do promise folks that you will have “a great garden in any soil,” even without amending your soil, when you follow the principles and procedures taught on the website and in Dr. M’s books.  This requires that you feed your plants very small amounts of natural mineral nutrients during the plants’ peak growing times.  This eliminates guesswork, and assures that your plants are really healthy.
Your poor soil will grow great plants if you will just make level, ridged beds as the website and books teach, and water, weed, and feed as instructed.  We can grow a great garden even in a gravel pit, or in blow sand.  As a matter of fact good friends in Santa Clara, Utah did just that, and their neighbors were amazed. The pictorial evidence is in the Yahoo Groups Mittleider Method Gardening Group at

Should I use Chicken Manure?

Q.  I have access to lots of chicken manure.  Shouldn’t I use it, since it’s almost free?
A.  If you’ve got it, use it.  However, the vast majority of people who want to grow gardens do not have ready access to it, and that is one of several reasons we don’t teach and advocate its use.
Chicken and turkey manures are “hot,” with almost twice the amount of nitrogen that cow and horse manure have.  This is because the urine and feces are together.  And they can easily burn your seeds or seedlings, unless you put them into the ground several months, or at least weeks, before planting.
Another problem with using any manure or compost, or combination, is that you have no concrete idea what they have in them, so far as nutrition is concerned.  They are the digested (or composted) remains of organic material that itself may have been deficient in some or all of the essential nutrients.  And the processes of digestion and composting take some of those nutrients away, so they are likely to be less than ideal.
And finally, manure and compost may harbor weed seeds, bugs, and diseases, which we certainly don’t want to introduce into our garden.
We want to leave as little to chance as possible, and grow healthy plants fast.  Therefore we feed them small amounts of natural mineral nutrients, that have just what the plants need to maximize their health and growth.

Rock Dust & Compost Continued

Q.  What if it is granite dust? I don’t understand that example.
A.  I wasn’t slamming granite dust, but only suggesting that it is different from limestone – and by inference that every kind of dust is going to be somewhat different. 
That is not to say that whatever rock dust you use won’t have beneficial minerals in it.  They probably do, but WHICH ONES, and HOW MUCH OF EACH, that is the question.
It’s the guessing, that can help you or hurt you, and you never know which or how much, that we are trying to eliminate.
Also, everyone is not going to be able to find rock dust to put on their garden.  Our belief is that EVERYONE should be able to grow a garden of healthy vegetables and fruit sufficient to feed themselves and their family.  This is why we tell people exactly what to do, and we give alternatives in the event they can’t obtain certain fertilizers – or even any fertilizer at all.
Following is a general statement of beliefs and “Mission” having to do with fertilizers, which shows one way in which we differ from most charitable organizations:
We subscribe to the idea that “Of him to whom much is given, much is required,” and that we in the more developed countries must take it upon ourselves to assist our brothers and sisters who are not so blessed with material things.
To us this means we must even go beyond sending food or clothing, and actually help the people help themselves!  While the best among other groups we’ve seen work to teach and help people with gardening, etc. they all are content to leave them in the 19th century, with only compost and manure as their source of nutrients. 
Our experience has confirmed our belief that when people are taught properly, and then given all the materials necessary for success (including mineral fertilizers), either as a regular loan or a “pay it forward” loan, they do far better and are much more likely to have a sustainable gardening experience, than if they only have manure.
This is why the training projects we conduct do not count on locally available manure, compost, or even rock dust, but we search for and make available all of the mineral nutrients to our students.  In every country we’ve visited the nutrients can be found, but most often the small family farmer has been limited by cost to manure and compost, with an occasional purchase of nitrogen fertilizer, and that’s the main reason they remain in poverty!  Even in America, without mineral fertilizers, a farmer was only able to feed a few people.
The foregoing is intended to help you understand part of the reason we don’t encourage organic gardening, and to help you recognize the value of your many contributions to the Foundation, for which we are extremely grateful!  Thanks for your continuing interest and support of good gardening.

Rock Dust & Compost as Fertilizer for Vegetables

Q.  So, what is the deal about rock dust?
A.  There is something of a buzz going around about rock dust for growing vegetables – as if it’s a new discovery.
The statement is made ( that “By spreading the dust we are doing in minutes what the earth takes thousands of years to do, i.e. putting essential minerals in the rocks back into the earth.”
This is not new science.  Jacob Mittleider has been teaching for over 40 years that “the only difference between dirt and rocks is the size of the particles.”  And that leeching, flooding, erosion, and crop removal,which have been going on for thousands of years, make it necessary to replace the minerals lost by adding them back using ground-up rocks.  Furthermore, commercial fertilizer companies have been grinding up rocks into dust, bagging it, and you and I have been spreading it on our lawns and gardens for over a hundred years.
The big difference, as I see it, is that we have learned which rocks to grind up, and in what ratios to apply them to our soil in order to give the plants exactly what they need, and the rock dust proponents say nothing about that.
Suppose the quarry from which you obtain your rock dust happens to be a limestone quarry.  You will be blessed with an abundance of calcium and magnesium.  Since all gardens need these minerals, and most do not get them, you will experience an improvement in your crop yield.  But what about the other 11 elements the plants need to receive from the soil?  And what if the quarry is granite instead of limestone?  Or what if the rock dust chosen contains heavy metals, or other harmful materials?
Compost is cited as the only other thing needed – except for the statement “using little more than,” at one point in the article.  That “little” could make all the difference.  What “little” else are they using? 
Rock dust, compost, and “little more”, are all three unknown quantities insofar as the nutrition they provide to your plants as well as the other, possibly harmful, elements they are introducing into your garden.
The Food For Everyone Foundation teaches people to take the guesswork out of gardening; that healthy plants must have 16 elements; that 3 are provided in the air; that the other 13 must come from the soil; that they are needed in certain ratios, and that they are needed throughout the plants’ growing cycle – not just once at the beginning.
I encourage all who read this to continue using rock dust that has been certified to contain only the minerals your plants need, in the ratios needed, and thereby be assured of “a great garden in any soil.

Are Nutrients Used Up in Decomposition – & Is Adding Organic Materials to Soil Beneficial?

Because microorganisms use nitrogen  to decompose organic material, such as sawdust, the process of decay can temporarily lower the amount of available nitrogen in the soil.  Remember that the loss is temporary, and that proper application of a balanced natural mineral nutrient mix, like the Mittleider Weekly Feed, will almost always eliminate any deficiency. 
The other potential problem is that sawdust typically has a low pH, and so the addition of calcium is important.  We recomment the use of  the Mittleider Pre-Plant mix to supply ample calcium.  Both Weekly Feed and Pre-Plant formulas are available in the Fertilizer pages of the Learn section on this website.
There can be some benefits to adding organic matter to your soil.  The nutritional value us over-rated, however, and you never know how much of anything you’re getting, so we do not recommend you count on compost for feeding your plants.
Benefits include the fact that it can:
  • Increase the soil’s ability to hold water.
  • Create pores in the soil to improve soil oxygen.
  • Loosen clay soil, making root growth easier.
  • Help moderate soil temperatures.

Disposing of Plant Residues – Burn, Dispose of, Compost, or Till into the Garden.

Q. I’m considering 3 methods of disposing of my cornstalks.  1-trip to the dump, 2-tie them up and sell them, 3-borrow a chipper-shredder and then till them right back into the rows.  I would like to chip/shred them and till them back into the rows along with some nitrogen. Any downside to this? I have looked through the stalks and haven’t found much smut (which I could cut off). What do you think?

A.  Whenever the Zoo animals don’t want my corn stalks I grind them up and put them in my beds.  The same can be done for other healthy, clean plant residues.  I will dig the soil out from the 18″-wide bed – about 10-12″ deep, grind up the stalks and spread them evenly along the bottom, then replace the soil and firm it on top of the plant residue.  If the plants are green, with moisture still in them, you don’t need any nitrogen – they have it still.  However, if you are tilling in dry plant residue, there will be very little nitrogen, and it wouldn’t hurt to add a little (8 ounces for a 30′ row).  Remember that nitrogen is volatile, and as plant parts age and dry out the nitrogen leaves and goes back into the atmosphere.  Over the winter, the soil will subside as the plants decompose, and when you till the bed in the spring, you will hardly notice anything.  But the benefit will be there.

Regarding the corn smut you have – unless you want to perpetuate that fungus in your garden, I would dispose of any plants that have the smut on them away from the garden.  However, if you are from Central America you may well want to ENCOURAGE the smut in your corn!  Those folks prize “wheat-la-coche” (sp), as they call it, and eat it like others eat mushrooms.  It’s not bad at all, but eat it before it becomes the dry, black powder!
Always remember, that you only want clean, disease and bug-fee plant residues in your garden.  And don’t leave them on the surface of the soil!  The nitrogen will quickly leave, and the bugs and diseases will just as quickly find them.  The best place for them is well-tilled into the soil, where they can compost naturally, and give you a little added nutrition and much improved soil tilth.



Using Zoo Manure in the Garden

Zoo Manure in the Garden

Q. I want to try some manure to improve my soil tilth, and zoo animals have healthy, weed-free diets.  Is that a good choice?  And if I went to my local zoo, which animals’ manure should I ask for?

A. First of all, only use the Herbivores’ manure.  Carnivore –doo is much more likely to have diseases that could be transmitted to humans.  As a matter of fact, I believe Zoos in the USA incinerate their carnivores’ manure for that reason – at least Utah’s does.

How much manure do you want, and how well equipped are you to compost it? Elephant and hippo -doo are sloppy, smelly, wet, and need serious composting before they are of use to the gardener.  However, there is substantial volume, and you can get a lot quickly.

On the other hand, giraffe, llama, camel, deer, sheep, goats, etc are small, dry, easily handled, more concentrated, and not at all bad to work with, but there usually isn’t much volume at any one time.

If you are able to obtain any of these, and have several weeks before you’re planning on putting plants in your beds, you can put the manure right in the soil, till it in, and let it compost in the ground.  That’s my favorite way of doing it anyway – you have no smells, no bugs, etc., and you only handle it once.